PELLA — Sitting side-by-side with each other, the candidates for the Pella School Board faced an audience to discuss why they’re the best representative for the school.
Incumbent Elisa Klahsen and Kevin Jones are running for the At-Large seat while Jeana Clark and Jesse Peterson are running for the District 1 seat, currently held by Annette Smith. Incumbent Joan Corbin is running unopposed for the District 2 seat.
The forum was by moderated Andrew Schneider and hosted by Dr. Bob Leonard. The election will be on Nov. 2, where residents can also vote yes or no for the $40 million bond measure.
Elisa Klahsen (At-Large)
Klahsen moved to Pella during her junior year in high school. While Pella High School was the eighth school she attended, Klahsen said the teachers she had made her time at Pella all the more special.
“They valued me and they encouraged me like I'd never been encouraged in any of the other schools I've gone to,” Klahsen said.
Klahsen served as a board member for the past year, which she looked back on with high reverence. Outside of the school, she currently works as the Senior Business Analyst for Vermeer Corporations.
“Honestly, I've learned the most from my peers on the school board,” Klahsen said. “They have been invaluable in teaching me how to be a good boardman and how to do our best for the school.”
Klahsen said she could “go on for days” talking about the strengths of the Pella Community School District, giving praise to the bond issue as a great example of how the district is making the schools a better learning space.
“Every time I look at something, I can tell that it has been worked on and proved and has gotten better over the ages,” Klahsen said.
Kevin Jones (At-Large)
Jones works as an optometrist at Family EyeCare Center. Although Jones grew up in Canada, he moved to Pella with his wife after finishing optometry school.
Since his wife grew up in the area, Jones said both of them think of Pella as a great city to raise their children.
Jones is interested in running for school board because he believes in quality education. He said the vast majority of the community’s future leaders will come out of the school system, so it’s important to prepare the students as they transition into the workforce.
“I'm just hoping that the next generation is going to be equipped with the knowledge and the skills and the experience that they need to exceed in the next level,” Jones said.
While he spends most of his day helping people improve their vision, Jones said he believes the school district is doing a great job in shaping the students, motivating him to be more involved.
“I'd like to be part of the process of seeing what needs to be done and what we can do to improve our school system,” Jones said. “I'm just looking forward to being part of the process.”
Jeana Clark (District 1)
Clark is an entrepreneur who started her own business 20 years ago, opening an international marketing agency focused on European companies reaching English-speaking customers.
Additionally, she taught business classes at Central College. Clark said she was interested in running because she wants to see students achieve in all areas of life.
“I love that we work with our community at-large — Vermeer, Pella Corp — to make sure that we're looking for talent and able to provide those internships and also certificates and apprenticeship programs,” Clark said.
If elected, Clark said she wants to work towards improving resources for students struggling with mental health. She also wants to help kids become more ready for both college and the workforce.
During graduation last spring, Clark said she noticed the number of students with an associates degree was in the double digits, which she thought was amazing for the district.
“If you've graduated with an associates degree, that already puts you in the workforce earlier [and] saves money on college,” Clark said. “That's huge.”
Jesse Peterson (District 1)
Peterson is a Northern Iowa native who graduated from Central College in 1999. He continued to live in the area with his wife, who is originally from Pella.
Since living in the area, he’s worked at Pella Corp and Vermeer Corporations. One of the reasons Peterson decided to run was to get involved with the community again.
Peterson had two kids who both attended the district, so he wanted to give back. Peterson said he has the leadership qualities from working in a couple of different companies that will prepare him for the board.
Additionally, he said he knows secondhand how to work on a board as both his mother and wife previously served on a school board.
“I think it's also a learning opportunity for me, I've seen it from the outside,” Peterson said.
Peterson said he thinks the school district has a great teaching staff, based on the feedback he received from his kids.
“We've got great teachers who are very intentional with the kids and are great listeners,” Peterson said.
Joan Corbin (District 2)
Corbin is running again for the Pella School Board District 2 seat unopposed. Corbin has been on the board since 2004, which is a position she said she doesn’t take lightly.
Corbin has a background in early childhood special education. She’s also worked as a home intervention teacher and previously had a cooperative preschool in her home.
In her position, Corbin said she’s able to speak with board members all over Iowa, sharing how she always thinks the Pella Community School District has something great going on.
“I love this school system,” Corbin said. “We have so much expertise in our leaders and our teachers, people love and care for our children, and it's so meaningful to me.”
Corbin said she’s appreciative of the time and resources going towards professional development of social emotional learning.
“I think it's hugely important that they learn how to be in the community with other people, and the factors that affect that,” Corbin said.